The Abyss Gazes Back Into You

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood of us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche worried that our pursuit of Truth is going to be our undoing. We killed God and the sword of Truth was the murder weapon. The problem with killing God is that He was the foundation on which our reality rested and so reality started to come crashing down. In response, we strived to fill the God-shaped hole with…ourselves.

For a while there, we kind of succeeded. The ideas of democracy, human rights and equality are all predicated on the assumption that humans are divine. And surely we were divine; the sword of Truth had illuminated what seemed to be a glorious path towards godhood. Except for a couple of World Wars and coming to the brink of nuclear armageddon – we seemed to have made great progress. It even seemed for a while that we had mastered the sword of Truth.

But, the sword of Truth is double-edged and lest we forget: it kills gods.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

Stories have always been the foundation of our being. We are nothing but the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Call it what you will:

It’s stories all the way down. And the thing about stories is that they are magic if you Believe them. The will to Believe literally changes reality because what we Believe determines what and how we perceive and remember reality. The Belief (i.e. the story) comes first – the perception and memories come second.

The sword of Truth

What makes the sword Truth so powerful and deadly is that enlightens. It is the light-bringer and so it reveals what lies in the darkness. But to be human is to be naive and our naiveté is so strong that we don’t realise that we might not like what we find. Because here there be monsters.

Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster. And if you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into you.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Our Beliefs and stories thrive in the dark. We did not evolve to be rational and objective – we evolved to survive in groups and maintain social cohesion. It doesn’t matter to us what is right, it matters only that others believe we are right.

The oldest story we tell ourselves is the story of our own importance. For most of history it was a God that created us and imbued us with purpose and meaning. But as the sword of Truth slowly inched its way into the heart of God, the story started to change. We started to ascend higher and higher as God descended lower and lower.

We started to fantasise about replacing God at the top: “Maybe we don’t need Him, maybe we are the only gods. After all, we are powerful enough to master the sword Truth – the most deadly weapon in the universe.” It didn’t occur to us that maybe there are no such things as gods. Because that would be too catastrophic to be true.

The shadow and the light

God is dead; but given the way people are, there may still for millennia be caves in which they show his shadow. – And we – we must defeat his shadow as well!

Friedrich Nietzsche

Although God is dead, His corpse still casts a large shadow that slowly fades away as the sword of Truth illuminates the world. His shadow is the God of the gaps; the slow receding of His authority. His shadow is manifested in the fact that most religious people aren’t really religious. Because once you can pick and choose, and once you can turn the literal into the figurative then you don’t Believe in God – you only believe in His shadow.

You know that you want to Believe but you simply know too much – the light is too bright. So you compartmentalise and refuse to look directly into the abyss. But it is still there, and on some level you can feel its burning gaze inside you.

The fall of Man

Economists used to assume that human beings were rational agents that made rational choices – i.e. gods. This has since been proven to be a false assumption. What economists neglected to consider was that there is no such thing as a human being – only homo sapiens. And homo sapiens is an animal.

Human beings are rational agents that exercise their free will. Homo sapiens are irrational and tribal animals that exercise the whims of the chemical reactions inside their flawed and limited brains.

The sword of Truth has killed us too. We are dead. We remain dead. And we have killed ourselves.

But like God – our corpse still casts a shadow. We compartmentalise, and refuse to stare directly into the abyss. But it is still there, and on some level we can feel its burning gaze inside us.

The same almost unconscious level which feels the burning gaze of the abyss “knows” that the idea of having free will is fundamentally incompatible to biology and physics. On that level we also “know” that the idea of us being superior to other animals is fundamentally incompatible to evolution and that the idea of our lives having meaning is fundamentally incompatible to what we know about the universe.

We just refuse to see it. Because it is simply too painful.

Next

The question: “wtf is happening?” has been torturing me for a long time and for a while the answer seemed to be: “God is dead”. But, now that I’ve thought about it some more, I think that this is only half-correct. I think that the real answer is: “we are dead.”

We tried to wield a weapon that is far too powerful for us. The sword of Truth lit up the world but it also exposed the abyss down below us. There is nothing for us there, only death and shadows.

And the shadow of dead human beings begets nihilism which begets narcissism which begets a mental health crisis which begets fanaticism which begets…armageddon.

Lets talk about that next.